(photo credit: )
There are already several Israel-Germany twin towns and now, there will also be twin forests. Although "ThÃ¼ringen Forest" in the Northern Negev will certainly never number as many trees as there are in the wooded State of Thuringia, an extra 5,000 trees in the "Forest of German States" will make a significant difference to the life quality and recreational opportunities of residents of Beer Sheva, Lahav, Lehavim, Rahat and many smaller communities.
On 21st May, a hundred and twenty invited guests met at ThÃ¼ringen's government office for a benefit for the Israeli-ThÃ¼ringen Forest. Hosting a concert and gala reception was Dieter Althaus, Prime Minister of the State of Thuringia. Gathered in the "Baroque Hall" of the 400-year-old building, were old and new friends of Israel and of KKL-JNF. Israeli participants in the festive event included KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler, of KKL-JNF Resources and Development Division Avi Dickstein, Executive Director of Resources and Development Division and Israeli Consul Gad Lahad.
After the Israeli and the German national anthems, the Prime Minister addressed his guests. "What other gift from ThÃ¼ringen - "Germany's Green Heart" - could be more fitting than trees? Indeed the friendship between Germany and Israel is difficult to grasp - especially for such a recently-autonomous state as ThÃ¼ringen, but after decades of government-imposed non-communication between the GDR and Israel, the friendship with Israel is of particular importance for us."
Stenzler told the assembly about the beginnings of the "Forest of German Federal States" and about the difficult conditions in the Negev desert. The guests were happy to hear him conclude his speech in German, thanking the Thuringian citizens on behalf of KKL-JNF for their friendship.
Benny Bloch, President of KKL-JNF Germany, related how he had met the Prime Minister last year and approached him concerning cooperation. "You will hear from one of my men," answered Althaus, and, as could be seen this evening, he kept his word. "This festivity here in Erfurt shall be another stone in the building of German-Israeli relations, as the Chancellor stressed in her impressive speech in the Knesset in Jerusalem."
Pupils of the Belvedere Castle School of Music in Weimar, Israeli soprano singer Robin Johannsen and Pianist Kevin McCutcheon entertained host and guests with works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Ernest Bloch, Paul Hindemith, Gustav Mahler, Leonard Bernstein and finally participants' joined in to Naomi Shemer's "Yerushalayim shel zahav." Afterwards, at the reception, the assembled Israel friends took the opportunity to get to know each other in a relaxed atmosphere where opinions and ideas were aired and exchanged on how to further support KKL-JNF's work. This fall Prime Minister Althaus will inaugurate the "twin forest - ThÃ¼ringen Forest" in the Negev and the Israelis have already bid him "Welcome to Israel."